Articles in Politics & History
Every correspondent in Moscow wanted to be the first to find Solzhenitsyn after he won the Nobel Prize in 1970. Michael Johson had that honor – but the great Russian writer wasn’t altogether pleased so see him.
He was the greatest Italian poet since Dante, but he was tormented by a strict upbringing, ruinous health, and moods of black pessmism. He was Giacomo Leopardi, and this is his story.
Ryszard Kapuściński has courted controversy for the poetic licenses in his groundbreaking works of history. But it’s those leaps of imagination and sympathy that make his 2001 book on Africa, The Shadow of the Sun, a lasting work of art.
The age of Roosevelt and Taft was also the age of Progressive reform – spearheaded by an amazing team of ‘muckraking’ writers the like of which the United States had never seen.
A new book argues that Theodore Roosevelt and William Randolph Hearst stampeded the United States into the Spanish-American War to feed imperial ambition and sell some newspapers. Are the roots of modern America rotten?
Chimananda Ngozi Adichie’s expansive novel Americanah centers on a Nigerian woman’s immigration to the United States and eventual return to Nigeria. Orem Ochiel explores what her story says about complex, often traumatic experience of being black and African in the West.
From the agora 2,400 years ago to the present day, the schools of Plato and Aristotle have been locked in combat; a new book sees the struggle in disarmingly simple terms.
Bulldog attorney Vincent Bugliosi investigated the JFK assassination and wrote the world’s longest book about it. We re-read it for the sad anniversary of that day in Dallas.
Before he became one of America’s most famous presidents, John Kennedy was a hot-shot senator and a photogenic winner of the Pulitzer Prize. But did the Senate years help to form the Oval Office years?
Elizabeth Gilbert’s ambitious new novel imagines the life of a 19th-century woman botanist, as insightful as Darwin but lost to history. It’s an interesting project, and a worthy one, but does the novel live up to its premise?
Two thousand years ago, a bustling seaside town on the Naples coast was engulfed in a sudden, unthinkable catastrophe: the eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried Pompeii in hot ash and froze it in death for two millennia. Can any museum exhibit capture the irresistible fascination of such a stark human drama?
A girl, a widow, a matriarch, a mother, a businesswoman, and a minister’s slave: a new history traces the Salem Witch Trials through the lives of six women who paid dearly for their proximity to one of the most mysterious incidents in American history
The USSR’s Book of Tasty and Healthy Food created an impression of bounty and gourmet splendor; Anya von Bremzen’s memoir Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking reveals the Soviet kitchen’s homelier truths
King and Woolman’s new book Assassination of the Archduke, boasts new sources, very close to Franz Ferdinand and his wife — too close?
President, prime minister, or unnamed Tsar, Vladimir Putin is at once ubiquitous and unknowable; a new book examines the many facets of a new species of autocrat.
The meek and peaceful Jesus has become the standard Christian image of the Messiah. Religious scholar Reza Aslan’s controversial new book shatters that image and replaces it with something very different: a violent revolutionary who came not to bring peace but a sword.
In Caleb Crain’s debut novel, a young man puts his ordinary life on hold and goes to post-revolution Prague in search of all the usual things young people go searching for in Prague. But, as reviewer Yulia Greyman observes, “false selves are a part of love.”
It became entangled with the imperial hopes of a nation and inspired the design of one of the most significant buildings of the 19th century, the Crystal Palace: a new book explores the remarkable story of the Amazonian water lily.
‘Everyone knows who won the war,’ runs the refrain of Muriel Rukeyser’s Savage Coast; her newly published 1930 novel about the Spanish Civil War shows what it meant to be a witness to it.
Ignazio de Vega conducts a careful exegesis of Pope Benedict XVI’s
Jesus of Nazareth and discovers in it a remarkable quality: a spirit
Our feature continues, as more Open Letters folk share their annual Summer Reading recommendations!
Fintan O’Toole is an idealist about Irish republicanism and his books begin a desperately necessary conversation. It’s a bad sign, though, that he can’t quite get past the preliminaries.
A debut novel of alternate history spins out one of the most tantalizing hypotheticals of the past: what if Anne Boleyn had managed to give King Henry VIII a healthy male heir? Some of the answers – and some of the resulting mysteries – may surprise you.
Bohemian Back Bay was as key to Copley Square as aristocratic Back Bay and black artist models figured not only in Sargent’s work, but in Fred Holland Day’s too.
In Reason, Faith, and Revolution, literary critic Terry Eagleton joins the contentious “God Debates” popularized by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Jeremy Kessler moderates the results.
The authors have invaluable sources in America’s ‘deep state’ of surveillance and counter-terrorism, but how much secrecy does security justify? And what happened to moral accountability?
A startling triptych illuminates the crossroads of social, racial, and sexual identity in the Copley Square of a century ago, as “The Gods of Copley Square” continues
An incurious and indifferent Jew journeys to Auschwitz to confront the kitsch and the manicured ruins, looking for a sense of connection – and finding it in the most unlikely places
“The Gods of Copley Square”s spirited multi-part examination of Boston’s Trinity Church (and its indomitable bishop-saint) comes to its conclusion right where it should: at the heart of worship
The typical image of Winston Churchill comes from the dark days of World War II: a fat, old, bald Prime Minister eloquently defying Hitler’s Germany. But before there was a monument there was a man, as an engaging new biography brings to light.
Winston Churchill has become such an icon of wartime tenacity that many people tend to forget he had a postwar political career. Barbara Leaming’s 2010 biography examines the last act of a famous man’s career.
Elie Wiesel once claimed “a novel about Treblinka is either not a novel or not about Treblinka.” How does Steve Sem-Sandberg grapple with representing the unrepresentable in his sweeping chronicle of the Łódź ghetto, The Emperor of Lies? A review from our archives.
He may not have anything new to tell us today, but as Spencer Lenfield demonstrates, Gilbert Highet’s friendly, engaging pedagogy is still rare enough to keep him relevant.
We’ve long endowed campaign consultants with shamanistic powers, but now a new truth is beginning to emerge–the people behind the scenes who can do most to win elections are the data analysts and stat nerds.
After his first visit to Italy, Mark Twain pronounced her “one vast museum of magnificence and misery,” and yet he returned again and again. Luciano Magniafaco chronicles his journeys.
The belief that Jews are the enemy of civilization is one of the West’s most tenacious and systemic ideas. Professor David Nirenberg’s new history offers a vast, seemingly inexhaustible record of a very old, very useful hatred.
When the Paris Review, long regarded as a literary standard-bearer, publishes a volume on the art of the short story, it flushes a flurry of conversations into the open: what is a short story? What constitutes an anthology-worthy example? What’s the audience for this kind of thing? And: can these stories answer such questions?
Joseph Epstein has a cult following as a sharp-tongued critic and essayist. His latest collection showcases his love of words and ideas as well as his caustic wit.
Year after year, D. H.Lawrence found love, lust, and gainful employment in Italy – and through the strange alchemy of the place, he also found the inspirations for some of his most enduring works of art.
Lost to history, here re-discovered, Trinity Chancel –”a daring enterprise in its day, as original an expression and as unique as was the genius of the American people.”
Ben Jonson said that the once wealthy and acclaimed Edmund Spenser died “for want of bread”; a new biography tries to disentangle myth from fact, and to make the case for the great poet’s relevance today
A rumor of Narnia at Trinity Church prompts two questions. Can a building have a spiritual life? Can a work of art not? Phillips Brooks and the idea of ecstasy
Give Anthony Burgess a check and he’d write anything, even a Time-Life picture book. Which doesn’t mean that his 1976 guide to New York is anything less than fascinating.
Nate Silver is currently enjoying his status as that unlikeliest of people, the celebrity statistician. Does his bestseller The Signal and the Noise live up to its carefully calculated expectations?
“Truth is Catholic, but the search for it is Protestant,” quoth W.H. Auden, and this month Phillips Brooks is at Lourdes, of all places, his liking for which can only be explained by his experiences at Benares.
Four years ago, Barack Obama won the U.S. presidency on a platform of hope and change. This month, as he fights for re-election, Greg Waldmann takes a detailed look at the incumbent’s first term.
As Americans go to the polls this month to elect a president, some recent biographies examine the lives of five very different men who once held the office.
“Perhaps a little drunk might answer” was Phillips Brooks’s idea of how to view Pre-Raphaelite art, several masterpieces of which he commissioned for Trinity Church. “Centerpiece” continues.
In this tensely-charged election year, all eyes fix on the blogosphere – of 1787. Jeffrey Eaton signs us in to Library of America’s 2-volume Debate on the Constitution and fills the comments field.
Mitt Romney’s diatribe at a Boca Raton fundraiser may have torpedoed his candidacy. Was he just pandering, or did he actually mean all of those things he said?
Madman, lothario, despot, drug fiend, friend and enemy of Mussolini – and immortal poet. Gabriele D’Annunzio was all of these things and many more in his whirlwind of a life.
Henry Adams on the road to Chartres, Phillips Brooks on the Madonna of the prairie, and John La Farge on why he worried Trinity Church had “no heart” — The Gods of Copley Square continues
Election-weary Americans might wonder why anybody in their right minds would elect to play a video-game presidential contest – but the process can be oddly enlightening.
It’s a bridge, a barrier, and a burden; it’s used in the bedroom, the kitchen, and the outhouse. Leah Price helps us think again about what we can, should, or want to do with that most fetishized of objects: the book.
Lord Castlereagh lives in infamy as the target of the Romantic Poets’ most vicious insults, but a new biography tries to salvage his reputation. Was the statesman a scourge of liberalism or pragmatist of Enlightenment ideals?
Pound wrote The Pisan Cantos on toilet paper while prisoner in an open-air metal cage during WWII, and he spent many of the following years in mental hospitals. “I can get along with crazy people,” he quipped. “It’s only the fools I can’t stand.”
Was General Zhukov the greatest general to order mass executions of his own soldiers? Was he the single most decisive factor in beating Hitler? A new biography opens more questions than it answers.
Byzantium rediscovered. An American in Venice and a forgotten Madonna (which breaks the rules) in Copley Square. Behold an American Hagia Sophia
Who’s at fault for our disastrous politics — both parties? Not a chance, say Washington insiders Ornstein and Mann. Our resident politico fisks their analysis.
This summer’s London Olympics take us back to 1981′s Chariots of Fire, the 1924 Olympics, and the poetry of William Blake. The connection? All remind us of the fragility of glory and our endless wish to make the past present.
Lyndon Johnson rained destruction on Vietnam and championed civil rights, amassed a secret fortune and fought for the needy. His paradoxical life continues in the fourth volume of Robert Caro’s epic biography.
A contentious Supreme Court in the headlines is hardly a new thing – nor is the Court being used for partisan politics and the brinksmanship of history, as Noah Feldman’s Scorpions makes clear
“He calls you a swine,” Walter Lippmann once wrote of H.L. Mencken, “and he increases your will to live.” A reissue of Mencken’s 1926 rabble-rouser Notes on Democracy shows the journalist at his insulting, rejuvenating best.
Open Letters mourns the loss of Gore Vidal, sine qua non, ne plus ultra
In the wake of today’s news from Connecticut, we are reposting a note written by our Executive Editor following the shootings in Aurora earlier this year.
We may never know with certainty what brought Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to cast the deciding vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act and salvage the chief accomplishment of Barack Obama’s presidency. But …
Boston’s iconic Copley Square – with its Trinity Church and its Public Library – is a present-day tourist hotspot, but those visitors hardly suspect the deep and rich history of the area. American Aristocracy continues.
Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was a cherished and beloved fixture of the British royal family for almost a century (and would certainly have stolen the show at her daughter’s Diamond Jubilee, had she lived to see it) – but a new book claims the Queen Mum was just an ordinary human being – and not always a very nice one
Just how powerful is Exxon Mobil? Who can they pay off and which governments are they propping up? Steve Coll’s new book explores the dark side of power and light.
She’s occupied the throne of Great Britain and the Commonwealth for 60 years, and in June Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee. Three new biographies try to understand the woman wearing the crown.
McGeorge Bundy, Robert McNamara, RFK, JFK, LBJ–these were the best and the brightest of David Halberstam’s landmark study of American politics during the Vietnam War. The book is now 40 years old and its lessons are as vital as ever.
Intertwining through Boston history: the rich, implacable music of Beethoven and the flinty austerity of the Boston Granite style of architecture – trace the connections, as American Aristocracy continues.
Steve Donoghue takes the emperor’s box to thumbs-up or thumbs-down an array of Roman historical novels, as “A Year with the Romans” continues.
Ian Manfred St. Cyr settles in with Maureen Waller’s Sovereign Ladies, a biography of “the six reigning queens of England” and suggests that the author’s headcount may be a little low.
The real mystery of Richard III is not the fate of his nephews, the Princes in the Tower, but why we never tire of telling and re-telling his story. What do we really see when we stare at his enigmatic portrait?
He survived years of dangerous exile, won his crown on the battlefield, and founded one of the most famous dynasties in human history – and yet we still haven’t embraced Henry VII. A spirited new biography seeks to change that.
No form of literature seems as thoroughly doomed in the 21st century as the printed encyclopedia, but even dinosaurs can have rich and rewarding life-stories. Where did we go, before we all went to the Internet?
Ken Layne’s political writing is sharp and raucus, and a novel about a financially devastated near-future United States would seem like a perfect vehicle for more anger. But though that fire is still there, a gentle-but-compelling spiritualist tone has risen to to the fore.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has made a career of joking about easy political targets – so what happens when she tries to deliver a factual inquiry of a serious subject? Nothing funny, as Greg Waldmann discovers.
This month sees the arrival of the long-awaited $250 million dollar Hollywood movie adaptation of Marvel Comics’ Avengers. Lost in all the hype is the rich history of the comic itself; Justin Hickey explores the convergence of pulp and pixels.
The clash between Brahmin liberalism and the legacy of slave-trading focuses on a monument to the men who redeemed a city and ransomed a nation. “American Aristocracy” continues.
A new book takes readers back to a time when, according to historian Ira Shapiro, politics could sometimes be noble and senators could sometimes be giants.
The work of the Roman poet Catullus has always challenged the received idioms of poetry and society, and a daring new translation both underscores and undermines that iconoclastic Catullan stance.
When the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 2010, it was given to an empty chair. Its recipient, Liu Xiaobo, was in prison for advocating human rights in China. Though he is still incarcerated, a collection of essays sheds light on his thought and struggle.
To the quintessential virtues the Puritans lent to a fledgling republic – globality, philantropy, and autonomy – the ‘speaking aristocracy’ of the Boston Brahmins added one more: the love of learning
Steve Jobs, the visionary predator who founded Apple and forged a new way of thinking about technology, wasn’t a particularly nice man (as even his dutiful biographer must occasionally concede) – but was he a genius?
Unlike the soap operas with which it is often dismissively aligned, Downton Abbey is defined by change rather than stasis – by its beautifully produced attention to social evolution.
One hundred years ago this month, the luxury liner Titanic struck an iceberg and sank, with the loss of over 1500 lives. The centenary has released a flood of books, including some gems not to be missed.
Andrew Breitbart, the brash, conservative media warrior, died a few days ago. He was by all accounts a wonderful husband, father, and friend – but should that matter?
After a brutal six months, Mitt Romney has won Florida and almost certainly the GOP nomination. Democrats and Republicans are rightly focused on his record, but they’re each doing it for the wrong reasons.
For two terms, first as National Security Advisor and then as Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice was the most – often the only – likeable face of the George W. Bush administration. But does this quintessential team player break ranks in her new memoir?
He fought a world war with France, survived the Black Death, and gave England a real Parliament. Froissart and Chaucer loved him, Shakespeare (almost) wrote about him, and the Victorians disparaged him. He was Edward III, and he has a king-sized new biography from Yale University Press.
Maligned as nothing but handsome breeding stock, this German import did more to redefine the role of the monarchy than any subsequent royal, consort or king.
Boston without Brahmins, like Vienna without Jews, frames shifting capitoline visions, visions much more in the spirit than most realize of Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., who actually wrote: ‘It dwarfs the mind to feed it on any localism.’
James Madison was more cautious and purposeful than the temperamental Hamilton or the effusive Jefferson. Indeed, to paraphrase Brookhiser, Hamilton was a rocket, Jefferson was a kite, Madison was a ballast.
A rich, beautiful, but sadly neglected historical masterpiece: Hilda Prescott’s The Man on a Donkey is the War and Peace of the English Reformation
He lost his famous mother when he was a boy, became a teen idol, had a storybook wedding, and he’s second in line to be King of England. The monarchy Prince William inherits will be like nothing his predecessors have experienced – if it exists at all. “A Year with the Windsors” concludes.
A meticulously-researched rendition of the horrifying massacres that comprised the “Rape of Nanjing” is the backdrop for Ha Jin’s latest telegraphic and affecting novel.
John Nance Garner famously referred to the vice presidency as being not worth a bucket of warm, er, spit – and yet, during the two terms of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney used that office to wield unprecedented power. The former vice president writes an unapologetic memoir.
Provocative public intellectual/muckraker Christopher Hitchens offers an enormous volume of collected essays and articles, probably his last.
He’s been waiting for the throne longer than any Prince of Wales before him, and he’s changed the nature of the monarchy while he’s been waiting. But will we ever see King Charles III? ‘A Year with the Windsors’ takes a look at the heir.
Boston, so often reproved for living in its memories, may well be poised to lead the future, not in spite of its history but because of it.
Lodestar or mirror? Passé or ne plus ultra? Elizabeth II has presided with consistency over an inconsistent age. And what have we learned of her?
The key to storytelling is world-building, and a new book wonders if our new and all-encompassing Digital Era has given mankind world-building tools like it’s never had before. Is it the death of the imagination – or Story 2.0?
The ethics of Wikileaks (and the antics of its mastermind, Julian Assange) continue to be the focus of controversy – and new books. Greg Waldmann takes a comprehensive look at the entire phenomenon.
Could you actually be hurting the environment by going green and moving to the suburbs? A new book champions that oft-maligned human invention: the big city.
Courtier and cleric, adventurer and ascetic, man of faith and man of the world — John Donne was many things in his life, and a sprawling new Companion does its best to assess them all.
One of the most significant voices of the Harlem Renaissance was Jessie Redmon Fauset — novelist, essayist, translator, and editor. She’s become obscured behind many of the male writers she published, but Joanna Scutts returns her poignant work to the main stage
When his brother the king abdicated, shy Prince Bertie suddenly became king – and he was just settling in when the World War II threw his kingdom into chaos. ‘A Year with the Windsors’ continues.
Brothers take opposing sides in World War One, in a gripping biography that reveals the history and politics of America’s role in the conflict.
A new biography explores the life of the erratic and headstrong ‘forgotten’ Founding Father who bankrolled a revolution and guided a new republic.
Religion is one of those subjects that are too important to be polite about. But can we at least agree to disagree respectfully about the meaning of life?
When the tottering Roman Empire abandoned its far-flung outpost of Britain, the natives were forced to fend for themselves. The results were one part “Lord of the Flies” and one part “Camelot.”
Former political radical Susan Rosenberg received the longest sentence ever given for the charge of possessing explosives. Her new memoir revisits her prison experience.
A pivotal part of the Second World War was fought not on land or sea but under the waves – and a new history attributes heroism to both sides.
If you’re hoping for a heartfelt mea culpa from an architect of two disastrous wars, this isn’t it. Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir is shallow at best, cynically self-serving at worst.
Semiotext(e) is famous for theory and provocation. So what happens when its co-founder takes on the art world in the latest installment of their manifesto series? To begin with, she doesn’t write a manifesto…
It’s fitting that Ahdaf Soueif is narrating this exciting new chapter in Egypt’s history: for decades she has offered her readers richer, more complicated stories of the Middle East than the commonplace ones of submission and extremism.
Theodore Roosevelt left office younger than any American president before him, and renowned biographer Edmund Morris concludes his TR trilogy with a look at the Colonel’s post-power days.
When the heir presumptive, Prince Eddy, died suddenly, the nation and empire was convulsed with mourning – and a century of speculation began! Had the lost prince been a simpleton, a saint, a catamite – even Jack the Ripper?
The ideology Irving Kristol helped found is inexorably tied to Bush administration, but a posthumous collection of essays reveals different and bracingly diverse origins
She was an orange-seller, an actress, a whore, and the most popular of Charles II’s many mistresses: Nell Gwynn stars in two new novels.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems depressingly intractable, an impasse without end. A new book offers a hypothetical solution, but is it foolish idealism, unworkable pragmatism – or a desperately innovative kind of hope?
Books have been with us for thousands of years, and books about books for very nearly that long. The world of books teems with themes, and in the latest massive Oxford Companion, that world receives a bestiary with hopes of being definitive.
The myth of idyllic rural America dies hard, but the scourges of modern society have long since struck the heartland, including the scourge of drug addiction and drug trafficking. A recent book explores the darkness at the edge of town.
Matt Taibbi is the foremost political-writing muckraker of his generation, matching an acerbic wit with a pressure-cooked prose style. But is there substance behind the bluster?
Her reign was epic in length and social impact, but it very nearly didn’t happen at all. She ruled through two generations of her people, and she left the British monarchy very different from how she found it. She is Queen Victoria, and our Year with the Windsors starts as it must: with her.
The United States’ first Civil War, Alan Taylor claims, was fought in 1812. Ivan Lett assesses the revisionist argument.
Patrick Henry uttered one of the most famous lines in American history, and a new biography attempts to claim him for a particular radical strain of popularism in contemporary politics. Give me liberty or give me… historical distortion?
Nixon’s crimes are known to us all. A new book reveals that his biggest tormentor in the media committed a few of them himself.
Is the death of literature finally dead? If not, it’s been dealt a healthy blow by Gregory Jusdanis’ Fiction Agonistes, even it art does have to “justify itself in a way not necessary before.”
In 1941 Hitler had everything: all of Europe had fallen to his stormtroopers, and he could dispose of lone, defiant England at his leisure. Then he made a Napoleonic gamble: he invaded his one-time ally, Russia. Three new books deal with the Napoleonic results of that gamble.
Ever since Cain and Abel, literature has reserved a prominent place for sterling heroes — and the flawed, grasping, and entirely more interesting brothers who live in their shadow.
No American president in a generation has so polarized the country as George W. Bush, and his new book will almost certainly polarize its readers. Is it defiant agitprop or heartfelt memoir?
For two centuries, he’s been the founding myth of his nation: first in war, first in peace, Washington the paragon. Ron Chernow’s new biography does nothing to tarnish that image — but should it?
Of the charismatic Yale lecturer one adoring student wrote, “Charles Hill is God,” and in his new book, Hill moves in mysterious ways. He claims that statecraft and the Western canon are inextricably linked — but there are doubters in the temple.
The Battle of the Somme has become a watch-word for useless slaughter over worthless ground, but a new book contends that the Somme was actually a victory for the good guys–a ghastly, horrifying victory, but a victory just the same.
As reproductive technology has become more advanced, the value of those engineered lives has become more complicated. Two recent novels provide a striking perspective on this growing conflict.
She’s one of the most famous names in history, and the only figure in antiquity to rival Julius Caesar’s renown–but what do we really know about Cleopatra? Stacy Schiff’s new biography takes us behind the legend.
A catch-all collection of James Baldwin’s essays, letters, and speeches reveals a social commenter whose observations retain their relevance and universality to this day
It’s that time of year again, when our writers gird themselves and review all ten books on The New York Times bestseller list. This time around the quarry is bestselling Nonfiction.
In books such as “Live Alone and Like It” Marjorie Hillis preached independence and practical style to “live-aloner” working women of the 1930s and beyond
Some of the greatest works of English literature grapple with the dark, knotted roots of anti-Semitism, and the audience is always complicit. A new book studies the tangle of art and atrocity in writers Chaucer to Marlowe to Shakespeare
He has become synonymous with amoral, cold-hearted political machination, but there was more to Machiavelli than that. A new biography attempts to look at the whole man.
The attacks of 9/11 evoked reactions from writers around the world, and journalist Scott Malcolmson finds fault with a great many of them – but does he do any better a job himself?
Adam Nicolson chronicles his work bringing Sissinghurst castle and its grounds up to date–the delusions of a “hippie-squire” or the worthy restoration of a storied estate?
He toadied to a succession of emperors and trembled at the mere thought of being mugged — on the surface, it looks odd to cast Pliny the Younger as a detective. A new mystery novel takes that chance.
More than any other figure in American history (including his hated rival Andrew Jackson), Henry Clay towered over the political landscape in the decades before the Civil War; two new books look at his legacy.
In addition to their gods and goddesses, the ancient Greeks worshiped youth and athletic prowess, and their foremost bard was Pindar.
Was Eleanor of Aquitaine a power in medieval politics or a glittering figurehead? This wife of two kings and mother of four stars in a new novel by Alison Weir – but will the real Eleanor please stand up?
Vegetarians choose to be vegetarians and meat-eaters choose to be “normal.” Melanie Joy cuts into the language we use to describe our food and the mindset behind it.
The documentary Restrepo, set in the deepest and most violent American outpost in Afganastan, ushers us “through a door most Americans don’t know about and don’t want to know about”
The sunlit aesthetics of the Edwardian era have been given a new look in this essay collection, and the consensus leans decidedly toward the darker meanings belying those lovely surfaces
What we know about Edward II came from the brilliant mind of Christopher Marlowe. A new biography seeks to separate the real man from the dramatist’s fertile imagination.
In 2009, Ciudad Juarez reported 2,700 homicides. As Charles Bowden’s new book Murder City shows, the bloody drug-war just south of the border shows no signs of abating
Emmanuel Carrere’s memoir is an uneasy blend of sexual fantasy and archival records, of a future with a beautiful young woman and a past haunted by a possible Nazi collaborator
As Mark Twain pointed out a century ago, there’s no evidence the man from Stratford ever read a book, much less owned one, and so the number of books alleging and ‘proving’ evidence of his grand fraud grows and grows …
Our bookshelves are a hedge against our failing memories, and as such, an extension of our minds. Nathan Schneider explores if and how this sacred role will be preserved in the age of digitization.
The so-called Tea Party would like to dump President Obama in Boston Harbor – but even ordinary politicians often misunderstand him. The reasons are simpler than you think.
In Absence of Mind, Marilynne Robinson explores both the dynamics of faith and the complacency of recent anti-faith screeds. But is her own book something of a fall from grace?
At her trial, Anne Boleyn was accused of adultery, witchcraft, and incest – charges long mocked by historians. But a new book asks: is it possible Anne was actually guilty?
When colonial tensions were at a boiling point, the British garrisoned troops on Boston Common and put the city under military occupation – until a certain Massacre, that is.
During the American Revolution, colonists ran blockades, fought sea-battles and … sent in an attack-submarine? No, it’s not time travel – it’s the amazing story of the Turtle.
World War I is known for its inching attrition, but both sides tried their hand at massive, all-or-nothing ‘pushes’ – including two of the worst, the Marne and the Somme.
Famed reporter Sebastian Junger spent months embedded with frontline troops in Afghanistan’s most forbidding region and tells the stories of the men who fight there.
In his new memoir, Christopher Hitchens regales his readers with one good story after another. But as John Rodwan shows, we’ve heard most of them before – lots of times.
We often let Napoleon’s failure to conquer Russia obscure the fact that Napoleon was then conquered by Russia. A new book restores the balance of power.
A minor daughter of Scottish nobility was raised to the royalty of England at the turn of the 20th century and lived until she was 102. Her official biography chronicles an age.
The Pacific Theater WWII battle against Japan – it will forever be ‘the other war’ – here takes center stage as the boredom and carnage are seen by five individual soldiers.
The Anarchist movement in America was the first to embrace some form of gay rights, but it was more a marriage of convenience than love at first sight.
In 2007-2008, the world’s financial markets experienced ample “creative destruction.” Now in paperback is this rich (no pun intended) life of the man who coined the term.
When John Ruskin, the foremost architectural critic of the Victorian era, discovered Venice, he fell in love. An elaborate new work paints the picture in great detail.
“Mad Bomber” Sam Melville protested the Vietnam War by blowing up buildings, and he died unrepentant in the Attica riots – but what, if anything, was his legacy?
President Polk isn’t exactly a household name, and a new book seeks to change that. Will the facilitator of genocide and the originator of civil war get a fair shake? Read on!
The warrior tribes who chipped away at Rome’s Western empire were pretty rough on each other, too. A new book examines the fight for fledgling Europe.
There’s a frightening possibility at the heart of Jaron Lanier’s new manifesto You Are Not a Gadget: how often do we subjugate our own personalities to the fixed designs of computer software?
The glory that was Rome lived on – in a strange new form – for a thousand years in the East, despite being beset by enemies on all sides. A new study illuminates how they managed it.
Louis Menand has offered a calm and lucid response to the usual jeremiads about higher education–but is its lecture targeted to an ever-shrinking audience?
The elephants of South Africa and the right whales of the North Atlantic are enormous, complex – and confronted with a growing human population. Two books estimate their chances.
The Glorious Revolution of 1688 was peaceful, orderly, and above all sensible, or so says towering Victorian historian Thomas Babington Macaulay. Two new books look at the man and the Revolution he so indelibly described.
Since the days of T.E. Lawrence, reporters have been providing the West with carefully-wrought (or overwrought) tales of the Middle East. A new book comments on the excesses–and maybe commits a few too.
Stuart Weisberg’s biography of Barney Frank may be scattered and incomplete, but it’s got one huge saving grace: Frank’s own witticisms on nearly every page.
Is it possible to defend a group of people who gleefully made rape and torture a part of their lives? Freydis Skaar reviews a new history of the Vikings and finds its author, Robert Ferguson, doing something very close to that.
It’s often forgotten, or ignored, that China has a four-thousand-year-old history as rich and varied as any Western civilization. Hugh Seames hopes that John Keay’s immense new book will change some misperceptions about the Middle Kingdom
Jonathan Safran Foer is not the first, but is certainly the most famous, to investigate the ethics of eating animals. Megan Kearns studies both the style and the substance of his argument, with an eye to his less acknowledged allies in vegetarianism
Unlike most prior White House wonks, Matt Latimer aw-shucks his way through history and into deep, deep trouble; Greg Waldmann reviews Speech Less
As Laura Kolbe shows, A New Literary History of America throws every word of its own title into question—and that’s not the most exciting part of Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors’ immense anthology
When he was banished for life from Rome, Ovid was trying to alter his artistic forms with his Metamorphoses. Trace the transformations in Steve Donoghue’s final “Year with the Romans”
In Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sherilyn DuWunn chronicle the plight of women from the Congo to Cambodia, and everywhere else across the globe; Megan Kearns reviews their work.
In 1938 Neville Chamberlain faced the ultimate ‘what if’ scenario, negotiating peace with Hitler; A.C. Childers weighs in on David Faber’s new account of the results.
Dan Baum and Dave Eggers have made very different books on New Orleans and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; Thomas Larson separates sense from sensationalism.
Foreclosure isn’t the homeowner’s only enemy. No one’s safe in their home when big money sniffs around; so the Supreme Court famously ruled in Kelo v. New London: John Cotter reviews muckraker Jeff Benedict’s Little Pink House.
Ned Sublette pens a loving portrait of New Orleans before Katrina struck. Ingrid Norton reviews The Year Before the Flood.
He was everybody’s friend, and his poetry breathes with life even today. He was Horace, and “A Year with the Romans” makes his acquaintance.
In a new work of Egyptology, bestselling author James Patterson claims he’s cracked the oldest murder case this side of Cain and Abel, but is Ascanio Tedeschi convinced?
The writers of Freakonomics are at it again, this time in super-sized form; Arthur Brock scrutinizes their findings.
In A Vindication of Love, Christina Nehring has set herself the task of reclaiming romantic love for the Twitter Age. Ingrid Norton rates the results.
Simon Schama’s The American Future finds ways to relate most of American history to President Obama. Amanda Bragg checks the connections.
Steve Donoghue’s “A Year with the Romans” continues with a look at the obscure Roman poet Persius – and the great new book about him.
Statesmen, philosophers, and serial killers turn to the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, but what was the emperor himself like? Frank McLynn’s Marcus Aurelius tells, and in this month’s “A Year with the Romans,” Steve Donoghue assesses.
In Signature in the Cell, Stephen Meyer suggests that science has prematurely evicted a prime mover from cellular biology, and he would like it put back. Ignazio de Vega tests his case.
The only surviving full-length biography of Alexander the Great was written by a Roman. Steve Donoghue looks at Quintus Curtius Rufus as “A Year with the Romans” continues.
Sure, he banged his shoe on a podium, but there was more than that to the fun-loving, infuriating Khrushchev – lots more, as Kristen Borg finds out in Peter Carlson’s K Blows Top
Church and State collided in Henry VIII’s England, and Durham Cathedral was caught in the middle. Steve Donoghue returns to his Tudor beat to review Geoffrey Moorhouse’s The Last Divine Office.
Brilliant novelist/amateur crank Mark Helprin despairs of your online thievery, and Esther Schell despairs of his new book, Digital Barbarism.
Larry Tye has written a book about the greatest, longest baseball career to date; Brad Jones benches the Babe and tallies up Satchel.
Carl Van Doren called her “the princess who takes off her pants,” but who was Gypsy Rose Lee, really? Kindly let Michael Adams entertain you in looking at two recent biographies.
That famous vein of gold (well, mostly silver) made American millionaires, awful tragedies, and Mark Twain. Eli Wanamaker’s literary quarry is Dennis Drabelle’s Mile-High Fever.
Bryn Mawr’s deaconess Edith Hamilton and Catullus, the bard of Rome’s underbelly, would seem to have little in common. Steve Donoghue brokers a meeting in the latest “Year with the Romans.”
Great Britain has finally made a woman poet laureate—and a lesbian no less. As Bryn Haworth reports, when she’s isn’t writing about the Royals, she’s plenty worthy of the honor. Since writing about the Royals is one of the job’s few requirements, what changes might we expect from the post?
Richard Beeman, in his Plain, Honest Men, reminds us that the Founding Fathers weren’t demigods. Thomas J. Daly measures their feet of clay.
Edward Lucas, in The New Cold War, puts a modern face on the hoary geopolitical struggle between the Russian bear and the American eagle. Greg Waldmann sorts the players and evaluates the stakes.
Sarah Ruden, the latest and greatest translator of Vergil’s Aeneid, offers a funny and fascinating glimpse inside the classicist’s world in this Open Letters interview.
Steve Donoghue’s “Year with the Romans” turns its eye upon Titus Livius, who either wrote poetical history or historical poetry, depending on who you ask.
The Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, was compiled in the early 19th century from a much older oral tradition—can it possibly have anything to teach the modern reader? Sean Hughes has some surprising answers.
Just as we approach the time when there will be no more living witnesses to the Second World War, Richard Evans concludes his monumental three-volume Nazi history with The Third Reich at War. Steve Donoghue makes record of the results.
Novelists, playwrights, and filmmakers have begun weaving the Columbine shootings into their fiction. Reviewing Dave Cullen’s Columbine, Brad Jones concentrates on the sad facts alone.
That persistent bugaboo of publishers (and recently, the reading public): writers passing off others’ work as their own. Paul Maliszewski’s Fakers looks at some notorious cases, and John G. Rodwan Jr. weighs in.
For half a century, Senator Ted Kennedy has been carving out a legacy in Congress. The legacy and the man come into focus in Thomas J. Daly’s review of Last Lion.
Virgil’s Aeneid has been attracting translators for centuries, and Sarah Ruden’s rendering is notable in more ways than one. (She calls him Vergil, for one thing, but that’s just the start.) Steve Donoghue regards her efforts in the latest “A Year with the Romans.”
Malcolm Gladwell is once again on the bestseller lists, this time for Outliers, about the social science of genius. Peter Coclanis begs to differ with the vox populi.
It’s been twenty years since the robbery of Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Jan van Doop retraces the art crime of the century in Ulrich Boser’s The Gardner Heist.
Peter Ackroyd’s Thames: the Biography is a rambling, list-laden account of the much-storied river. Our London correspondent Bryn Haworth tests the waters.
Ronald Reagan was the only modern U.S. President to keep a daily journal. Steve Donoghue plumbs The Unabridged Reagan Diaries in search of the diarist’s soul.
In 1979, the mighty Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan – and quickly got bogged down in a quagmire from which victory seemed impossible. In The Great Gamble, Gregory Feifer examines what happened; muscular Zac Marconi tries to tie it all together.
Thomas DiLorenzo, in Hamilton’s Curse, lays all the present-day woes of the United States at the feet of that most problematic of Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton. Did Aaron Burr do us all a favor? Thomas Daly weighs the prosecution’s case.
And you thought text-messaging was bad! In the 1920s, the gin-soaked youth movement of the Bright Young People swept through London, making headlines and raising eyebrows. Honoria St. Cyr takes a whirl through D. J. Taylor’s book on the subject and asks: “WTF?”
Evan Thomas, under the aegis of Newsweek, with substantial researcher assistance, after the editing of … well, “A Long Time Coming”, the first post-election account of President Obama’s campaign, got written somehow. Greg Waldmann goes into it with high hopes – and then conducts the autopsy.
They were wealthy, influential, and for two centuries in England they wielded power to rival the king’s … but who were the Earls of Pembroke (and their equally formidable wives)? In Quarrel with the King, Adam Nicolson takes us beyond the pomp, and here Steve Donoghue looks at the politics of family.
Would the inventor of “sprung rhythm” have lived a more carefree existence in a world that allowed him to live and love the way he wanted? What poetry would he write in such a world? Steve Donoghue takes a brisk dip into Paul Mariani’s Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Life.
Mary Borden’s long-forgotten 1929 memoir of World War I, The Forbidden Zone, takes its readers into the harrowing world of a front-line trauma nurse. Joanna Scutts joins her in the trenches and assesses the damage.
John Demos, author of The Unredeemed Captive, has produced The Enemy Within, a new comprehensive history of witch-hunting, a mania that has gripped mankind for centuries. From Salem to the McCarthy hearings and beyond, Rita Consalvos surveys this new survey.
Everybody’s heard of Hannibal, who crossed the Alps and out-fought the Romans in battle after battle. Far fewer people have heard of Scipio, the young general who finally defeated him. And nobody’s heard of the hero Ascanio Tedeschi uncovers in his examination of two books on ancient Rome’s great and near-great.
Jane Mayers’ The Dark Side describes the United States’ rapid descent into the murky ways of torture and secret autocracy. Whether its the expediting of illegal proceedings or the out-sourcing of brutality, Greg Waldmann tries not to flinch from what he finds in Meyers’ account.
The kings and counts of Tudor England wouldn’t have known the name of minor Cheshire landowner Humphrey Newton, but in reviewing Deborah Youngs’ book on the man, Steve Donoghue illustrates just how much Newton can teach us about the era. “A Year with the Tudors” concludes here.
Millions of people all over the world feed their pets food manufactured under circumstances that would make Upton Sinclair spin in his grave. Sara Shaffer sifts through the ingredients of Marion Nestle’s Pet Food Politics.
Before the pestiferous little Corsican conquered Europe, he tried his hand at Egypt – Steve Donoghue exposes how the general disposes in his review of Paul Strathern’s Napoleon in Egypt.
Euripides’ Medea has been explained, performed, and debated for the last 2000 years. Panagiotis Polichronakis looks at Robin Robertson’s new translation and ponders whether it’s fit for scholars, dramaturgs, or the all-elusive common reader.
A mere month remains until the most fiercely fought and most historically pivotal American presidential election of the last half-century. In July, Greg Waldmann served up an in-depth look at Republican John McCain. Here, just in time for the election, he does likewise for Democrat Barack Obama.
Confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson achieved immortal fame in his Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1862. Peter Cozzens re-examines the man behind the legend, and Steve Donoghue adjudges the results.
“It assaults me, and I adore it!” exclaimed Isabella Stewart Gardner of the legendary city of Venice, and legions of visitors have felt likewise. Venetian writer Tiziano Scarpa writes a love-letter to his spellbinding native city. Professor Hugh Seames has the oar.
With his new book and coinage Crowdsourcing, Jeff Howe argues that a democratic, everyman wisdom is the secret to business success. So is the vox populi really the key to quality? Kathleen Smith, crowd of one, weighs the argument.
William Shakespeare lived under the Tudors for most of his life, but he only wrote about them once, in his play The History of the Life of King Henry VIII – or did he? In our latest One Encounter, and also the new installment in his “Year with the Tudors,” Steve Donoghue takes a look at that play and the fractious theories attendant.
Mary Tudor’s fierce Catholic faith and merciless persecution of Protestants gave her the immortal nickname of “Bloody Mary.” In our ongoing feature A Year with the Tudors, Steve Donoghue reviews Linda Porter’s The First Queen of England: The Myth of “Bloody Mary.”
An in-depth addition to our Year with the Tudors: Open Letters chats with a writer equally hip-deep in the subject, Linda Porter, author of The First Queen of England: The Myth of “Bloody Mary.” Our first Q & A!
There’s something going on in the latest trend of Tudor book-covers, and we’re not sure what it is, although a pair (shall we say?) of aspects is quite obvious. What are these publishers thinking? Take a look for yourself! and a second look! and a third!
Even would-be world-beater Napoleon was never able to subjugate his critics. In reviewing Philip Dwyer’s new book Napoleon: The Path to Power, Thomas J. Daly finds at least one such critic still bashing away at the diminutive Corsican.
For those too addled by Xbox to grasp subtlety, Mark Bauerlein and Richard Shenkman have titled their respective books The Dumbest Generation and Just How Stupid Are We? For the rest of us, Laura Tanenbaum provides a nuanced evaluation of the laments of these cultural Jeremiahs.
Overlooked by many historians is the fact that Columbus didn’t just sail west to reach the East, he also sailed south, and he (and the rest of the world) had some specific ideas of what that meant. Bartolomeo Piccolomini shows how Nicolas Wey Gomez’s new book brings the full sphere of The Discoverer’s navigation to life, showing you a Columbus you never knew.
In his latest book (a slim one this time), Robert Kagan again probes the socio-political state of the West. History is back, he tells us—about a week after he told us it was gone. Greg Waldmann helps us to to keep track of the epochs without a scorecard in his review of The Return of History and the End of Dreams.
At the peak of his career, Naval Secretary (and posthumously famous diarist) Samuel Pepys found himself out of a job, in jail, and facing execution for his alleged plot against the government. Father and son writing team of James and Ben Long take the reader through all the twists and turns of the case; father and son reviewers Thurlow and Zach Truman report back.
In covering John McCain’s life and accomplishments, the American press has been, how shall we put it? less than tenacious. There are real stories they’ve yet to explore, or so argues Greg Waldmann in his first piece as Open Letters‘ Politics Editor.
Though the American Civil War produced more and better books and writers than any single event in our country’s history, Bruce Catton is the greatest of its 20th century tellers. In this regular feature, Steve Donoghue tours the breathtaking work of an unfairly set-aside annalist.
For a year in the mid 1970s George H.W. Bush was the head of the United States Liaison Office in China. Steve Donoghue laments the contrast they make with his incurious son.
Ninety years ago, the author of The Birds of Puerto Rico bludgeoned a small boy to death with the help of then-lover Richard Loeb. Steve Donoghue takes readers through Simon Baatz’s For the Thrill of It—in which Clarence Darrow fights the good fight for a couple of very, very bad boys.
Partisans on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have trouble reconciling the intricacy of events with their national mythology. Greg Waldmann explains how the Benny Morris of 1948 is both the exception and the rule.
Ted Sorensen was the most loyal of JFK’s retainers and the last to finally spill the beans about the Bay of Pigs, the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Steve Donoghue walks us through the worthy—if somewhat hedging—memoir of an eloquent and haunted man.
Napoleon came home from Elba to find his wine barrels dry, his floors scuffed, and a host of minor nobodies redistricting his continent. This was the celebrated Congress of Vienna, and Thomas J. Daly takes us through the maneuvers of Vienna 1814 by David King.
More than any other dynasty in history, the Tudors are ready for their close-up. In this installment of his “Year with the Tudors,” Steve Donoghue leads us on a royal progress through film archives to access the heart and stomach of these undying superstars.
We know that we can digitize books, but is it possible to translate digital texts back onto paper? Carolyn Grantham explores this and other 21st-century dilemmas in her review of Sarah Boxer’s Ultimate Blogs.
What do you do when the courageous trailblazing author who formed your youth is accused of an unspeakable crime? John G. Rodwan, Jr. does what Orwell would have done, weighed the evidence and let the chips fall where they may.
The New Oxford World History:
The World from Beginnings to 4000 BCE
Focusing on early humans to the exclusion of non-human biology or world geology, this lean book may have been more accurately titled …
Many readers forgave Michael Scheuer the angry bloody-mindedness of Imperial Hubris because of the merciless critiques of the Bush administration, but Greg Waldmann reports that in Marching Toward Hell, illogical anger is about all Scheuer has left
At the age of 64, ex-President John Quincy Adams did an unprecedented thing: he became a congressman. Thomas J. Daly looks back on the autumn of this remarkable man’s life in a review of Joseph Wheelan’s Mr. Adams’s Last Crusade.
And the murderer of the great Roman General Germanicus was…. No, you’ll never guess. Ascanio Tedeschi shows how historian Stephen Dando-Collins exploits a scarcity of known facts to formulate the most ludicrous whodunit in recent memory.
Today the name Mata Hari evokes a villainess in a James Bond movie. Yet, as Joanna Scutts discovers, if you wipe away the makeup from the myth, you uncover a far sadder and more complex tale.
The premise of Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational is that all of us are a lot more irrational a lot more often than we thought; Steve Donoghue tries to determine if the inmates really are running the asylum
Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey: commander, courtier, poet. In this installment of his “Year with the Tudors,” Steve Donoghue tells the story of how such an extraordinary young man fell foul of Henry VIII.
He makes tools; he uses fire; he caucuses with interest groups: this is Dana Milbank’s Homo Politicus. Greg Waldmann assesses Milbank’s field notes, wishing the taxonomist had been more exacting.
Daniel Walker Howe’s What Hath God Wrought turns on the 1828 presidential race between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, a tawdry epic of mudslinging the likes of which would not be seen until our own era. Steve Donoghue revisits how it all, alas, began.
Steve Donoghue continues his “Year with the Tudors” with this look at Chris Skidmore’s biography of Edward VI, the ill-starred son of Henry VIII who might have been the most formidable Tudor monarch of all.
Books lamenting our fractured political system are as commonplace these days as polling and pundits, but, as Greg Waldmann discovers, the historical rigor of Ronald Brownstein’s The Second Civil War helps elevate it above its pandering peers.
As Steve Donoghue writes, the epitome of what a monarch can be was embodied in the massive form of Henry VIII, and not a year passes without another biographer struggling to tackle the man and his legacy. 2007 was no different….
The bestselling New Atheists presume that a simple faith in reason will make short work of the longing for God. David G. Moser takes them to task for what Nietzsche would have called their “complacent rationality.”
There was no popular conception of the serial killer in Victorian England in 1888. Jack the Ripper was self-made man, and, as Steve Donoghue writes, no one knows who he was.
Joanna Scutts reviews Soldier’s Heart by West Point professor Elizabeth D. Samet, whose memoir accomplishes the impressive feat of finding common ground between Army officers and English majors.
For fifteen years a British and a Soviet family built a friendship by slipping letters past KGB censors. Karen Vanuska celebrates From Newbury with Love, a collection of their rich correspondence.
Does Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason really tell us anything we didn’t already know about our dying national dialogue? Greg Waldmann’s answer is yes.
It was a long wait, but, as Panagiotis Polichronakis reports, The Landmark Herodotus is finally here in all its definitive glory.
When crises like 9/11 erupt, says Susan Faludi, America’s women wind up in lockdown. Joanna Scutts finds the national unconscious as unbalanced as ever in The Terror Dream.
Aside from the stammering anger they’ve stirred up, have John W. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt added anything substantial to the Middle East debate? Plenty, Greg Waldmann writes, but not for the reasons they wanted.Aside from the stammering anger they’ve stirred up, have John W. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt added anything substantial to the Middle East debate? Plenty, Greg Waldmann writes, but not for the reasons they wanted.
George Custer knew damn well how many Indians he’d be fighting at Little Bighorn, but the myths of that battle have overcrowded the truth. To sort one from the other, Steve Donoghue charges into a shelf of Custerology.
A good man’s life is rare and pure enough to revisit for its own sake. Steve Donoghue looks back on why Theodore Roosevelt meant so much to so many, and how he earned his spot on that big rock.
In The Know-It-All, A.J. Jacobs reduced learning to the memorization of trivia; now in The Year of Living Biblically he reduces religious faith to growing a beard. Steve Donoghue, in turn, reduces A.J. Jacobs.
Greg Waldmann wraps his head around The Suicide of Reason and comes away wishing Lee Harris hadn’t tried to talk reason off a ledge.
Steve Donoghue reviews pollster-guru Mark J. Penn’s Microtrends, a book that sheds light on the campaign mentality of our most powerful politicians. The weak of stomach must consider themselves duly warned.
In our regular feature, Hugh Merwin tucks in to the reviews of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which alternately acclaim and castigate the bellwether bestseller.
In this regular feature, Steve Donoghue celebrates the life and letters of John Jay Chapman, an eloquent American wit now forgotten, whose writings once provoked and delighted an enthusiastic public.
The American Revolution’s neat conclusion at Yorktown is a familiar story from the history books. Thom Daly reads Perils of Peace as Thomas Fleming’s noble if flawed attempt to add more detail to our easy picture of events.
Almost a century ago, the squabbles of one privileged family decimated all of Europe. Steve Donoghue investigates Catrine Clay’s impossibly comprehensive retelling in King, Kaiser, Tsar:
Wikipedia is destroying our culture; so are YouTube, MySpace, and Google; and all your damn blogs, too—or so says Andrew Keen. Greg Waldmann exposes Cult of the Amateur, and the amateur authorship behind the screed.
Simon & Schuster is calling Michael Behe’s The Edge of Evolution a work of science. Steve Donoghue examines just how blasphemous a claim that is.
James Fenimore Cooper’s greatness as a novelist has been almost completely lost behind a single, hilarious skewering from Mark Twain. Steve Donoghue reviews a new biography that tries desperately to win back the poor man’s reputation.
Ah, that slave-trading John Hawkins, what a dreamy, dashing man! Steve Donoghue reviews Susan Ronald’s The Pirate Queen, an Elizabethan history a trifle more interested in romance than, um, what actually happened.
The only trouble with Sean O’Casey’s brilliant plays is that they overshadow
his magnificent memoirs. In our monthly feature, Steve Donoghue
tries to even the scales.
Teaching a man to fish isn’t enough: you’ve also got to teach him to cook what he catches. Hugh Merwin challenges the usefulness of Barbara Kingsolver’s folksy Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
Alan Axelrod’s Blooding at Great Meadows perpetuates a few too many myths about George Washington. Fortunately, we have Steve Donoghue to set the hagiographers straight.
After tallying up the fallacies in God is Not Great, Amanda Bragg concludes that Christopher Hitchens is less concerned with enlightened dissent than with cashing in on a craze
Sam Sacks laments the great divorce of Christianity from literature